Teaching other important things: handshake

I’m a Spanish teacher, so I teach Spanish, which is the content of like 97% of my little blogcito here.

But since I’m a teacher, I also teach the other important things that have nothing to do with Spanish but everything to do with life. That’s today’s content. If you’re only here for the Comprehensible Input strategies and resources, click around, I’m sure you’ll find something!!

I’m going to say a potentially sexist thing…which is odd because I consider myself a feminist…but here we go: a lot of my female students don’t have very good handshakes. Actually, that may have been too nice. A lot of my girls are really bad at handshaking.

Besides my Spanish teacher hat, I also wear the National Honor Society Advisor hat at my school. Every year we have a big, fancy induction ceremony in which all the new inductees attend and shake our administrators’ hands, and school board members’s hands and my hand. And years ago, during one of the ceremonies, I was appalled when I noticed how many girls had really weak handshakes. And the question dawned on me: does anyone ever teach little girls how to shake hands?!? Someone must have taught the little boys; every guy inductee had a good, solid handshake. But the girls… oh the girls…like 90% of them had cringe-worthy sorry excuses for  handshakes: you know the offenders: limp flappy fish hands, avoiding eye contact, broken wrists, twirling on one foot or the other, looking terrified, a handshake that lasts like .002 seconds long or like awkwardly too long.

So, I decided then and there that someone should teach them to handshake and it would be me.

So I teach a handshake lesson every year, prefaced by: “Just in case no one has ever taught you how to shake hands…” I demonstrate all the “handshakes gone wrong” described above. Then give the steps: square up your hips and shoulders, flex your hand, squeeze firmly, maintain eye contact, 2 or 3 shakes, etc. You know, the important things. And we practice.

Then I introduce our new password “Trato hecho” (it’s a deal) and inform them that for the next few weeks, they’ll say “trato hecho“, while shaking my hand, to enter class, and I coach each one of them, for weeks, until they’ve all got acceptable handshakes. I kind of feel like a politician, smiling and shaking hands between classes.  (After all the kiddos are in class and silent reading, I liberally apply hand sanitizer ;)

And, the funny thing is, I get a lot of precious comments about this lesson. It’s just one of those little things that has a big impact:

  • One really quiet girl came up to be after the whole class had left and whispered to me, “I never knew what to do when someone wanted to shake my hand. Thank you for teaching me.”
  • A former student, now all grown up, emailed me just recently, telling me she had her first “real job” interview. She walked in, confidently shook the boss’s hand and the first thing he asked was, “WOW! Where did you learn to shake hands?” And she replied, “Actually, my high school Spanish teacher taught me”. (And she got the job!)
  • This year, another one of my sweet darlings told me about a student leadership competition that she participated in a few weeks ago. If her first competition, she got poor marks on “introduction”, but in her second competition, after some serious handshake practicing, she earned perfect marks- and she thanked me!

So…load your kiddos up with comprehensible input, but don’t forget about the other things they need to know before the head out into the wild world out there! Be the teacher that prepares them for life. Maybe they need to be taught to shake hands…but more likely,  there are other things they need to learn and you’re the one to teach them!


  1. Excellent post!!!! I also teach my students lots of “life skills”. Mostly I do it whenever the situation arises, but you are right. We need to teach some of these skills “on purpose”.


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